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Maintaining Biodiversity

Giraffes, african elephants, hippopotamuses and different kinds of trees and bushes at Ruaha river camp, Tanzania
Pie chart: 28% of species abundance lost Bar chart: 50-100 billion $ in benefits at risk Negative trend

Biodiversity includes diversity of species, habitats and genes. It is important for stability and adaptability of ecosystems, and it is in increasing demand as a source of medicines and other commercial material. Biodiversity is also a foundation of soil productivity and forests.

Affected people and foundations of life: About 12% of bird species, 23% of mammal species, and at least 32% of amphibian species are threatened with extinction (MA [Millennium Ecosystem Assessment] 2005). Worldwide only 14 animal species account for 90% of all livestock production and only 30 crops dominate agriculture (UNEP [United Nations Environment Programme] 2007, 171). About 1 billion people live a subsistence lifestyle, so the loss of ecosystem productivity can rapidly lead to malnutrition and increased susceptibility to diseases (UNEP 2007, 180).
  The global risk of destabilization of ecosystems has a high potential for damage, as well as a high probability of occurrence. The risk of anthropogenic affects on mass developments of species also has a high potential damage, but an unknown probability. (WBGU [German Advisory Council on Global Change] 1998, 62.) Agricultural expansion, including seeding very few crop species and using pesticides, is one of the major drivers of biodiversity loss, just like nutrient pollution, climate change and the invasion of species caused by global transport and travelling. Different benefits from biodiversity run into billions of dollar in value. A successful pharmacological product, for example, can be worth US$ (dollar of the United States (of America)) 5-10 billion per year in revenues, with a present value over its life of US$ 50-100 billion. (OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] 2008, 215.)

Targets/goals: reducing significantly, until 2010, the rate of loss of biodiversity at the global, regional and national level (base year: 1990; CBD [Convention on Biological Diversity] 2002, § 11; World Summit on Sustainable Development: UN [United Nations] 2002, § 42, and 2006a, 6).

Trend: Twelve of fourteen indicators for biodiversity adopted by a Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity show a negative trend.
  The only positive indicator is the coverage of protected areas, which has increased to 13% of the world’s land area. But not all protected areas are effectively managed. (CBD 2006, 4.) There is also under-funding of protected areas and an under-representation of marine ecosystems, lake systems and temperate grasslands (OECD 2008, 212).
  The Living Planet Index, aggregating trends in population size of 4 642 wild populations of 1 686 vertebrates, shows a consistent decline in average species abundance of about 28% between 1970 and 2005. Tropical regions show a decline of 51%, while temperate regions had an increase of 6%. Terrestrial and freshwater species have declined by 33% resp. 35%, and marine species have declined by 14%. The index is calculated as an average percentage of the population size of individual wild species (taking 1970 as index base year). (WWF [Worldwide Fund for Nature] et al. [and others] 2008, 6, 8; 1970-2000 also: CBD 2006, 25.) A further decline of mean species abundance to 2050 is projected (OECD 2008, 200). The rate of projected decrease for the period 2000 to 2030 is higher than in the period 1970 to 2000. This means that the 2010 target of reducing significantly the rate of loss will very likely not be reached. (Bakkes et al. [MNP (Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (Milieu- en Natuurplanbureau))/OECD] 2008, 66 and 70.)
  Average hard coral cover in the Caribbean has declined from about 50% to 10% within the last three decades (CBD 2006, 24).

Measures: Measures include establishing more protected areas (especially in "hot spots" that host a lot of species) and improving their management, using more environmentally sound methods in agriculture, storing seeds and genes, and protecting species threatened by extinction locally or due to trade, and sustainable use generally (Convention on Biological Diversity 1992, biodiv.org).

Annotations: For numeric names the short scale is used:
1 billion = one thousand million = 109 = 1 000 000 000


Draft (2008)

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Photo credit: © Lauren Humphries/NBII.gov